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Representative Walsh is a Tea Party Republican who as of January 21, 2012, is serving his first term in the 8th district of Illinois and running for reelection in the new 2012 district, which has been redrawn to favor the Democratic party more than previously. He has a 0% F grade on the Secular Coalition for America‘s Congressional scorecard. No other candidate scored as low, and obviously no candidate scored worse.
There are two votes that stand out from other candidates who did poorly. One is RC 601 HR 33: Church Plan Investment Clarification Act.
Explanation: HR 33 would have amended the Securities Act of 1933 to allow certain securities issued in connection with retirement income accounts available only to certain kinds of church plans to be treated as exempted from registration and disclosure requirements under the act.
Bill Status: The bill passed in the House.
Why the Secular Coalition approves a “nay” vote: This measure offered no comparable exemption to secular nonprofits, resulting in a religious privilege in securities law for churches and clergy.
Many Illinois representatives issued no vote. Other democrats and republicans voted yes, and so did Representative Walsh.
The second bill of note is RC 673 HR 440: To provide for the establishment of the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.
Explanation: HR 440 would have directed the president to appoint a special envoy to promote religious freedom of religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia within the State Department. It would require the Special Envoy to: (1) promote the right of religious freedom of religious minorities, denounce the violation of such right, and recommend appropriate U.S government responses to such violations; (2) monitor and combat acts of religious intolerance and incitement targeted against such religious minorities; (3) ensure that the needs of such religious minority communities are addressed, including economic and security needs directly tied to religious-based discrimination and persecution; (4) work with foreign governments of such countries to address inherently discriminatory laws; and (5) coordinate and assist in the preparation of specified reports required by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Bill Status: The bill passed in the House.
Why the Secular Coalition approves an “aye” vote: This measure allows the executive branch to act on behalf of religious minorities in areas of the world where they are being actively persecuted. Though nontheists are not mentioned, the Secular Coalition is lobbying for their inclusion.
Walsh was the only Illinois representative to vote ”nay” on this bill.
Additionally, Represenative Walsh features a list of 28 Founding Principles of the United States on his website, which consists of some principles that should be disturbing to any citizen who values a secular government. They are certainly offensive to any and every atheist.
Principle 1 - The only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is Natural Law.
Principle 2 – A free people cannot survive under a republican constitution unless they remain virtuous and morally strong.
Principle 3 – The most promising method of securing a virtuous people is to elect virtuous leaders.
Principle 4 – Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained.
Principle 5 - All things were created by God, therefore upon him all mankind are equally dependent, and to him they are equally responsible.
Principle 8 - Mankind are endowed by God with certain unalienable rights.
Principle 9 - To protect human rights, God has revealed a code of divine law.
Principle 10 – The God-given right to govern is vested in the sovereign authority of the whole people.
Principle 28 - The United States has a manifest destiny to eventually become a glorious example of God’s law under a restored Constitution that will inspire the entire human race.
The notion that supernatural authority is needed for humans to acheive freedom, basic rights, or virture is disturbing to any human being who values these yet doesn’t need supernatural beings or religious doctrine to acheive them. Further, Principle 28 uses disturbing language that sounds like justification for theocracy.
While Representative Walsh is the first politician to go on the record for our campaign, we are not picking on him for how poorly he represents atheists and secular advocates, nor for how grossly his policy positions diverge from that of the National Atheist Party. Every single politician in the nation should have a NAP member or other secular activist walk up to them and ask this simple question on the record:
At the event, Representative Walsh requested more information on the Secular Coalition for America. I sent the following e-mail to his event coordinator per his request and in reply to some of the comments he made at the event.
I would like to say that I greatly appreciate Rep. Walsh holding town halls and engaging his constituents directly so often. I also respect how forthright he was in his answers and in demanding respectful discussion from his audience.
Obviously, I would also ask on behalf of the National Atheist Party and as a voter in his district that he apply the constitutional mandate of the separation of church and state. So, while I appreciate that he respects my right to have a different opinion, his actions and response make it clear that he doesn’t respect the fact that religious doctrine and supernatural belief have no part in governance and political policy.
Further, his assertion that this country was founded by god-fearing men and an adherence to the golden rule, I would say, is somewhat true. What some christians conveniently leave out is what even cursory historical scholarship makes clear. This country was also founded by a number of deists and ardent secularists, who, from their personal writings, we might surmise that a belief in a magical, omniscient being in the sky was something they found not reasonable to assume without evidence: thereby, making them, by definition, atheists. Additionally the golden rule is a transcendent, secular value having nothing to do with supernatural belief. It can be found in Hammurabi’s Code and ancient Egyptian stories that predate christian mythology by hundreds and hundreds of years.
However, that argument from authority is completely irrelevant. The fact is our founding documents — and later clarification by the very individuals who drafted them and founded this country — make it very clear that government should have NO influence in the freedom to believe or disbelieve in supernatural claims. And, supernatural claims and religious influence should be separate from government. Vague, quote-mined references to gods by one or more founding fathers does not constitute a justification for what they actually advocated and put into law and, with the intent of their language – especially James Madison and Thomas Jefferson - later clarified in further writings.
I won’t give you a huge list, as anyone can find and review these documents if they wish or choose not to purposefully ignore them because they disagreed with a personally held belief. But, I will submit the following for you to consider, as a sample:
James Madison, Jefferson’s close friend and political ally, was just as vigorously opposed to religious intrusions into civil affairs as Jefferson was. In 1785, when the Commonwealth of Virginia was considering passage of a bill “establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” Madison wrote his famous “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” in which he presented fifteen reasons why government should not become involved in the support of any religion. This paper, long considered a landmark document in political philosophy, was also cited in the majority opinion in Lee vs. Weisman. The views of Madison and Jefferson prevailed in the Virginia Assembly, and in 1786, the Assembly adopted the statute of religious freedom of which Jefferson and Madison were the principal architects. The preamble to this bill said that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” The statute itself was much more specific than the establishment clause of the U. S. Constitution. “Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise [sic] diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”
Vice President of Outreach
National Atheist Party
Special thanks to NAP’ers Sean Moran for camera duty and Kathi Wise for helping to represent the NAP.